California Considers Requiring Doctors to Undergo Drug and Alcohol Tests

    California voters will decide this November whether doctors in their state will have to submit to random drug and alcohol tests.

    If the measure is passed, California would become the first state to require doctors to submit to random drug and alcohol testing, according to The New York Times. The measure is part of a broader initiative that would also raise the state’s financial cap on medical malpractice awards, from $250,000 to $1.1 million.

    The medical industry has already raised more than $35 million to defeat the measure, the article notes. Opponents include doctors, hospitals and medical insurance companies. Unions, the state Chamber of Commerce and the California chapter of Planned Parenthood oppose the measure, known as Proposition 46. Supporters include U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer and U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

    If Proposition 46 passes, the California Medical Board would receive results of random drug tests on doctors. Hospitals would have to report the names of doctors who were suspected of abusing drugs or alcohol.

    Dr. Richard Thorp, President of the California Medical Association, told the newspaper the measure is a “money grab by trial lawyers.” He added, “The decision about drug and alcohol testing shouldn’t be made by political consultants — it should be made by stakeholders in a careful, thoughtful way.”

    Arthur L. Caplan, a medical ethicist at New York University, supports the measure. “It’s crucial: I can’t believe we haven’t done this already,” he said. “We can argue about how often that is, and what to do if you are positive. But the idea that we wouldn’t be screening our surgeon, our anesthesiologist or our oncologist when we are going to screen our bus drivers and our airline pilots strikes me as ethically indefensible.”


    August 2014